All Quiet on the Western Front


At the beginning of the book, Remarque writes, "This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped (its) shells, were destroyed by the war."[3] The book does not focus on heroic stories of bravery, but rather gives a view of the conditions in which the soldiers find themselves. The monotony between battles, the constant threat of artillery fire and bombardments, the struggle to find food, the lack of training of young recruits (meaning lower chances of survival), and the overarching role of random chance in the lives and deaths of the soldiers are described in detail.

One of the major themes of the novel is the difficulty experienced by former soldiers trying to revert to civilian life after having experienced extreme combat situations. This internal destruction can be found as early as the first chapter as Paul comments that, although all the boys are young, their youth has already left them. In addition, the massive loss of life and negligible gains from the fighting are constantly emphasized. Soldiers' lives are thrown away by their commanding officers who are stationed comfortably away from the front, ignorant of and indifferent to the suffering and terror of the front lines.

Another major theme is the concept of blind nationalism. Remarque often emphasizes that the boys were not forced to join the war effort against their will, but rather by a sense of patriotism and pride. Kantorek called Paul's platoon the "Iron Youth", teaching his students a romanticized version of warfare with glory and duty to the Fatherland. It is only when the boys go to war and have to live and fight in dirty, cramped trenches with little protection from enemy bullets and shells while contending with hunger and sickness that they realize just how dispiriting it is to actually serve in the army.

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